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“I gotta go, Kelly,” Patrick said, without even looking in my direction. There was a long awkward silence, and I realized he meant that it was time for me to get out of the car. This was the first real sentence Patrick had spoken to me since taking my virginity five hours earlier. “But they’re not here anymore. They . . . left me,” I said, unable to hold back the tears. I wanted to hand Patrick the note I was I holding, but he just stared straight ahead. I glanced into the back seat at our friend, Sean, who sheepishly looked away when I tried to make eye contact with him. “I don’t have any way to get home. I live like four hundred miles away. Please, you guys can’t just leave me here!” I looked at Patrick and waited for a response. He finally turned his head and looked directly at me. “We gotta go, Kel,” he said. This time he said it slowly and more pronounced to be sure I got the message. Why are they acting like this? I wondered. Sean was my friend, and Patrick—I loved Patrick. I thought he loved me too.
I turned and stared out the window. Panicked thoughts raced through my head: They’re actually going to leave me here. My heart sank as I accepted the inevitable. I pulled the door handle and slowly stepped out into the hot southern California sun. It was mid-September, but at nearly 90 degrees, it felt a lot more like mid-July. I closed the door and watched as they sped away. He didn’t even say goodbye, I thought. I looked at the note in my hand and re-read it.
You weren’t here when it was time to check out so we left. You will need to find your own way home. You can call us at your Dad’s apartment. We will be there cleaning it out. 714-555-3838
Wiping the tears from my eyes, I walked toward the hotel. I opened the lobby door and the cool air washed over me, sending a shiver through my body. “May I use your phone please?” I asked the woman at the front desk. “Sure,” she said. When she handed me the receiver, I noticed her name tag said “Brenda.” I dialed the number in the note.
The phone rang, and on the other end, my sister Kari answered, “Hello?”
“Is Mom there?” I asked.
While I waited for my mom to pick up, I noticed Brenda watching me intently. She looked confused. When my mom checked out and left the note hours earlier with explicit instructions to give it to me when I showed, she had expected an adult to walk through the door. Seeing a fifteen-year-old walk in and ask where her family went must have caught her off guard. She looked as though she wasn’t sure what to think. I turned my head attempting to get some privacy.
“But, Mom. I tried to get here in time . . .” “Mom, I’m sorry . . .”
“I’m sorry! . . .”
“I know you waited all night . . .”
I could feel Brenda watching as I completely lost control and began sobbing into the phone, begging not to be left without a way home.
“Please don’t leave me here . . .”
“I don’t have any money . . .”
“Mom, I don’t even know how to get home from here! . . .” “I’m sorry . . .”
“Okay . . . okay . . . bye.”
I handed the phone back to Brenda. “Thank you,” I said as
I sniffled and wiped my runny nose with the inside of my shirt. She stood there looking at me and I felt completely transparent. Suddenly, I became aware that I was still wearing the same clothes I had worn to my father’s burial yesterday and I felt an overwhelming urge to take a shower.
Pushing the glass doors open, I walked out into the heat and sat on the curb in some shade to await my rescue—or wait to die. I didn’t know which. Thoughts began to race through my mind, and I tried to grasp the entirety of the last few days.
“My dad is dead,” I said. “He’s dead.” As if by repeating it, it would somehow make sense. But it didn’t make any sense. “He’s dead!” I yelled, but the words fell flat onto the pavement in front of me, and all I could do was sit and stare at them. My forty-six-year- old father had died suddenly from a heart attack days earlier, and no matter what I did, my mind still couldn’t seem to be reconciled to the reality that he was gone.
“God, I don’t understand what’s happening. Is this my punishment for everything I’ve done? Everyone left me,” I cried. “Everyone!”
As the loss hit me, a wave of rage washed over me.
“What kind of God are you? What kind of cruel God are you?
Where are you, you monster? Where the hell are you?”
Feeling completely abandoned, I put my head in my hands and sobbed. I began to take slow deep breaths to keep my heart from beating right out of my chest. I breathed in through my nose and out through my mouth. I was breathing, but I was also waiting for an answer. I demanded an answer! But there was no response. There was nothing. Just the heat of the day and the sound of cars driving by filled with people who hadn’t just lost everyone they loved.
“I mean nothing to you,” I cried.
“I told you,” said The Whisperer.
I glanced down and noticed a roly-poly bug walking slowly by my foot. I reached down, poked it with my finger, and watched curiously as it curled up into a tight little ball.